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I Had Breast Cancer. Am I Able to Breastfeed?

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Updated June 26, 2014

Question: I Had Breast Cancer. Am I Able to Breastfeed?
Answer:

Many women who have had (or currently have) breast cancer ask if they can breastfeed. The general answer is that breastfeeding is safe, unless you are currently being treated with chemotherapy or hormonal therapy. If you have had breast cancer and have not had a double mastectomy, breastfeeding is absolutely possible and very safe. (If you have had one breast removed, there is still the possibility that you can breastfeed from one side.) Here are the guidelines to follow:

If you become pregnant after treatment with lumpectomy and radiation:

  • The untreated breast will most probably become bigger than the treated breast and will typically make enough milk to sustain the baby. There is nothing harmful to the baby in the milk.

  • Radiation may cause the breast to produce very little, if any, milk.

If you've had chemotherapy:

Most probably, you will be able to return to breastfeeding after your treatment is completed. And yes, that could even be as long as three to four months.

If you're nursing your infant and you're advised to start chemotherapy:

You must stop nursing before you begin chemo. The treatment medications will be present in your milk.

If you're unable to breastfeed, but want to capture the experience:

Breast Cancer Drugs - Are They Compatible with Breastfeeding?

Here are the most common medications used, and the recommendations for breast cancer patients who wish to breastfeed. These recommendations, not cut and dry answers that can apply to every woman. It's important for a mother to make sure that there's open communication between their oncologist and their baby's pediatrician.

  • Abraxane IV: Withhold breastfeeding for at least 6 to 10 days.
  • Adriamycin-Pfs IV: This is contraindicated by the American Academy of Pediatrics for use in breastfeeding mothers. Withhold breastfeeding for at least 7 to 10 days.
  • Aredia IV: This has not been reviewed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Arimidex Oral: Mothers should not breastfeed while consuming this medication.
  • Aromasin Oral: Discontinue breastfeeding if this product is used chronically. Withhold breastfeeding for at least 5 days if discontinued.
  • Cytoxan Oral: This is contraindicated by the American Academy of Pediatrics for use in breastfeeding mothers. Withhold breastfeeding for a period of at least 72 hours.
  • Epirubicin IV: Withhold breastfeeding for at least 7 to 10 days.
  • Femara Oral: This has not been reviewed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Discontinue breastfeeding while taking this product or for a period of 10 days following its discontinuation.
  • Gemzar IV: Withhold breastfeeding for a minimum of 7 days.
  • Herceptin IV: This has not been reviewed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The risk is low, but unknown at this time. Mothers should probably not breastfeed while taking this medication.
  • Lupron Inj: This has not been reviewed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Neupogen Inj: This has not been reviewed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Nolvadex Oral or Tamoxifen Oral: This has not been reviewed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Mothers receiving tamoxifen should not breastfeed.
  • Taxol IV: This has not been reviewed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Withhold breastfeeding for at least 6 to 10 days.
  • Taxotere IV: Withhold breastfeeding for a minimum of 4 to 5 days.
  • Toremifene Oral: Withhold breastfeeding for a minimum of 25 to 30 days.
  • Vinorelbine IV: Withhold breastfeeding for a minimum of 30 days.
  • Xeloda: The recommendations are the same as fluorouracil. Mothers receiving injections of 5-FU should withhold breastfeeding for a minimum of 24 hours. Those receiving topical therapy would not need to discontinue breastfeeding if the surface area is minimal.
  • Zoladex SubQ: This has not been reviewed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding after you've had any form of cancer, talk to a local lactation consultant. She will be a great resource to help you sort through options.

Sources:

Breastcancer.org

Mohrbacher N, and Stock, J. The Breastfeeding Answer Book. La Leche League International. Schaumburg, IL.

Hale TW. Medications and Mother's Milk. 2006

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